Well well well how to start this one? To those who know me or from my first post, it is no secret that I belong to that group that carries a lot of names : the settlers, the aliens ( this one gives me a chuckle), the wanderers, the voyagers, the explorers oh and as we call them officially now a days the immigrants.
Since there is a lot of controversies, different opinions and views about this topic I am going to stick to my own, after all as one Rwandan saying goes ” Ijoro ribara uwariraye”, and to the non speakers my attempt to slightly translate this is ” a night can only be narrated by the one who endured it”.
So let’s go back to the time they stamped that visa into my green book back in 2007; Just like many children around the world I had dreamed of worlds far away that I had only at that time experienced through books and few images on a television .”America the land of opportunity” they all said, was one of those dream lands. Well for my case an opportunity presented itself in the form of “education”. I knew I had worked hard for that opportunity and was willing to maximize it. I wanted to learn about anything and everything, the culture, the food, the people, the ways of life, the weather and of course science and technology for my academic endeavors. The thought of how vast and far the continent was from my familiar world made me tremble on the inside, but I knew and believed that you won’t know how deep the water is from the standing ashore, you have to gather the strength and jump in. So I started the preparation of a journey to the world unknown. I read all I could about the northern hemisphere, the language, the map, the name of the states and how to pronounce them (believe it or not, I had never heard of Ohio and I proudly pronounced it O-hee-yo at the time LOL). I had never experienced winter and I had heard a lot about it and saw the white flurries on TV, so I looked around for what I though were the heaviest warmest coats ( one of those ended up barely being used as an undercoat when Ohio winter came LOL). My mother scrapped the bottom of her bank and paid for my ticket, a travel date was made and so I started the countdown. I gathered a few memorabilia from home and I packed up my little blue suitcase the night before the departure.
I had never boarded a plane before, up to that point I had only seen them passing me up in the sky above me, and looked at one from a far across a glass wall when I would accompany my father to the airport for one of his business trips abroad. So the morning came, I said goodbye to my friends and all the familiar faces, my mother and siblings got in the car and on the way to the airport we went. I hugged my family and they watched me rise up on the escalators through the same glass we used to watch my father.
Up to that point I was excited about the trip and caught up in the preparations that I had not thought in depth about what I was leaving behind. The moment the plane embarked all became so real, as the plane ascended leaving me with pressure filled ears and a sense of loss of control with every jump, I finally realized that it was all happening. I wasn’t going to see my mother at the dinner table that night, my life as i knew it was distancing itself from me with every mile we traveled, I wasn’t sure of what awaits for me on the other side of the Atlantic and most of all there was no turning back, IT WAS ALREADY HAPPENING. I quietly wiped tears from down my cheek and I sat there in silence.
The rest of the flight was a roller-coaster of emotions, I tried to distract myself as much as I could, but as my eyes wondered through the 200 something passengers along with me on the ride, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else’s mind was going through the same race as mine.
I landed at Dulles airport the next day. The busyness, the crowds of people, the views, the architecture… everything couldn’t compare to what I had imagined. As I tried to navigate my way to my next flight, learning that my english wasn’t as good as I thought before, realizing I couldn’t understand the “American accent” after all, I read my way to my next flight just to find out that it was delayed for five hours. So there I sat in the middle of a busy airport, in a land I had only dreamed about till then and so many emotions kept me company till my final flight; the anticipation of a life anew, the fear of fitting in, the desire to be accepted, the hope of pleasing the new hosting country, the anxiety to not loose myself, my values, beliefs and authenticity and holding on to the courage to just jump in. All these are but a few of what went on in my mind as I joined this land and a sample of a lot that goes on in a mind of an immigrant.